I’ve been putting this off for a while. See, I’m what the general mass media would call a “Jason Statham Hater.” He’s never impressed me as an action star, and he’s absolutely and completely never impressed me as an actor.
Don’t get me wrong; I love action movies. I grew up on the Schwarzenegger and Stallone “thrillers” of the late eighties. At one point of my life I knew every line of Cliffhanger, Kindergarten Cop, and (God help me) Demolition Man. These were action stars with attitude and a persona. Even Arnold, complete with his ridiculous accent and deadpan acting, seemed to have a schtick all his own, and he was (and still is) the king of one-liners.
Then along came The Matrix, and action movies changed forever. They now felt the need to be “postmodern” in some way–commenting on technology or the internet. More than that, they moved from “pound you in the face action” to a more stylized, choreographed approach. All of a sudden any Tom Cruise could be a compelling action star, and actors were asked to create unique characters for each outing. It was a dark time for dumb-action cinematic history.
Then there was the slight rebirth of the “badass” action film. Stars like “The Rock” and Vin Diesel tried to take over the mantle of action superstar, and it never really worked. These shaved-headed impostors wore their sunglasses and worked on their chiseled abs, but you could never buy them as true badasses. They had the lines and even a little of the “attitude,” but they were quiet and a little too cool for school. They weren’t really capable of going the over-the-top insane action-oriented places their predecessors jogged through with ease. They were actors playing the part of action stars.
Within this group, Jason Statham emerged. And to tell you the truth, he always felt like the “B-star” of this new crew…the Frank Stallone of the late 90′s and 2000′s. Whenever a high-profile job got made, Statham was left out for Mr. Rock Johnson or Diesel or even Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford doing their “I’m too old for this shit” schtick. Statham did the lower profile movies that only the most die-hard action fans, desperate for a fix and unwilling to watch Commando for the 800th time, sought out.
Sure I enjoyed the first Crank movie, but it felt like more of an action spoof than an action movie. And let’s face it: when Statham landed a lead role in The Expendables opposite the incomparable Sly Stallone, he couldn’t help but be overshadowed in a movie that really wasn’t very good.
I had pretty much written off Statham forever. But then a cute girl asked me to have an action movie night. And when a pretty lady wants to watch Jason Statham, you watch fucking Jason Statham.
So we settled in for her favorite–The Transporter. This is a movie I had avoided like the plague. I remember when it came out on DVD. I was working at a video store, and every idiot off the street had something to say about Statham’s breakout opus. People were filled with enthusiasm, but nobody had anything good to say about story, character, style, tone, or any of the other elements that movie snobs (like myself) care about.
I wrote The Transporter off as another 80′s action wannabe film, trying desperately to fill the gap left by the retirement of the true action stars.
I grabbed a beer, attempted to open my mind and settled in for the long haul.
Which is fucking cool. How many times have I sat through a really boring part of an otherwise passable action movie listening to some villain drone on about character motivations and plot mechanics that I, as an audience member, really don’t need to know. In general, when an action movie bothers to explain what’s going on it does little more than tell the smart audience members what they’ve already figured out and point out the gaping plot holes that invariably riddle these kinds of movies.
The Transporter‘s plot has something to do about an Asian corporation and a shipping container filled with slaves. Cool. That’s all I need. Tell me what Statham has to shoot.
Cooler than that, though, is the fact that–for the first time I’ve seen–Statham is a real action star. He delivers one-liners with aplomb, he has sex with the main female lead and never references it again, he has an awesome bat-cave-like house, and he makes one of the bad guys shoot the other bad guy in the face and push him out of the car before he’ll drive the getaway car.
Arnold would be proud.
Now remember…this is a ridiculous movie, complete with the insane action and over-the-top-ness we’ve come to expect. These days, action movies kind of have to be spoofs of themselves, and this movie is no exception. There’s a scene where Statham drives a car off an overpass and lands on a truck. Then he throws it in reverse, gets back on the road, and keeps driving. The car is fine, and so are the people. You just kind of have to go with it.
So yes, The Transporter is a good movie. I said it. Out loud. For the world to hear. It melted my movie-snob heart with its explosions, and Statham crawled his way inside and made a home. (Gross).
So without further ado, here goes.
Dear Mr. Statham,
I once thought you an impostor. I saw you as a b-list action star, desperate to be mentioned in the same breath as Arnold Schwarzenegger. But now I see you’ve got the goods. You have, in my mind, surpassed those other ass-clowns Vin Diesel and The Rock. You have the 80′s swagger and, when the script allows it, you can be one true badass.
It doesn’t feel like you’re faking it…like SOME people I could mention. So thank you, and please make more badass movies with razor-thin plots that a monkey could follow. It’s not about the story, it’s about how many brutal fight moves you can get in before having a nameless bad guy accidentally shoot himself with his own gun.
Thanks for the memories. You’ll be forever in my heart.